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Series of Letters to Ed Marks:

May 19, 1996
Ed Marks
Affirmation & Critique
P.O. Box 2032
Anaheim, California 92814-0121
Dear Ed:

A few weeks ago I mailed a letter to Kerry Robichaux responding to the article that he authored entitled "Axioms of the Trinity". Please convey to him my apologies for addressing him as "Ron" and not "Kerry"; it was late at night and I missed that important detail while focusing on the subject at hand.

This correspondence emerges from my reflections on your article headed "A Biblical Overview of the Triune God", which appeared in the January edition of AFFIRMATION AND CRITIQUE.

There are, admittedly, some matters relating to God that are incomprehensible. For example, the notion of a Being without a beginning overwhelms human thinking. But, we are told that the Creator’s existence is swallowed into an eternal past whether we can conceive it or not. (Psalm 90:1-2) Many would place the doctrine of the Trinity into that category of realities. You seem to be making such an argument in the first section of your paper, the section appropriately titled "A Mystery". You quoted Augustine Was this Augustine, bishop of Hippo or Augustine of

Canterbury?) and Martin Luther who both cautioned that it was impossible to explain the Trinity but vital to accept it. However, the matter of the Trinity is in some ways different from ,say, God’s eternal existence into the past. For one thing, the Bible explicitly states that God has an eternal past and, indeed, that he is the ‘King of eternity’. (1 Timothy 1:17) Where, though, are we plainly told anywhere in the Bible that there are three persons in one God? In other words, there is not the essential, clear Biblical foundation from which to proceed to make the case for the Trinity.

Next, you related: "The Bible reveals that the divine life is nothing less than the Triune God Himself. Life is God Himself in Christ as the Spirit. In John 5:26 the Lord Jesus said, ‘For just as the Father has life in Himself, so He gave to the Son to also have life in Himself.’ This shows that God the Father is the source of life." Now, as a non-Trinitarian Christian I view the text at John 5:26 as evidence that the Trinity doctrine is suspect. First, if it is true that the Father is the "source" of life and not the Son, then we have to wonder about the equality of the members of the Trinity. This difference between the Father and the Son is not a trivial difference. Also, if the Son received the ability to have "life in Himself" from the Father, then it means that either there was a time in his existence when he did not have it or that when he was ‘first begotten’ he received it at that time. (Col 1:13-18) In either case, this makes him a being qualitatively different from the Father.

On page 24, you continued: "According to the divine revelation, the truth is the reality of the Triune God. the Father’s word is truth (John 17:17), the Son is the truth (14:6a), and the Spirit is the truth (1 John 5:6). The Lord Jesus said, ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free’ (John 8:32). To know the truth is to know Christ, the Son, who is the embodiment of the fullness of the Godhead (Col. 2:9)." You probably can imagine someone saying that Classical philosophy is: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Or, someone else saying that Psychoanalysis is: Freud, Adler, Jung, Rank and Homey. The fact that several individuals are associated with some thought or principle does not marry them organically only categorically. Of course, the Father, the Son and the holy spirit are associated with Truth but does that meld them into a religious trinity?

Let us look at the scripture you cited, Colossians 2:9. Before us are several translations of this text:

THE BIBLE - AN AMERICAN TRANSLATION: "For it is in him that all the fulness of God’s nature lives embodied, and in union with him you too are filled with it."

THE NEW TESTAMENT IN MODERN SPEECH - Richard Weymouth: "For it is in Christ that the fulness of God’s nature dwells embodied, and in Him you are made complete..."

THE JERUSALEM BIBLE: "In his body lives the fullness of divinity, and in him you too find your own fullfillment..."

At Colossians 2:9 we find the Greek phrase "πληρωμα της θεοτητος σωματικως", which some would literally translate: "fulness of the deity bodily". Now, If you look over at Ephesians 4:13, you will see these words: "till we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown Man, to the measure of the full stature of the Anointed one." (DIAGLOTT BIBLE) The expression "full stature of the Anointed one [the Christ]" is the translation from the Greek: "πληρωματος του χριστου". What is the point? Note that the Greek word for "fulness" appears in both texts, one in connection with the divine fulness in Christ and the other in connection with the fulness of Christ in us. Question: Does the fulness of Christ in us make us equal to Christ if not becoming Christ himself or is it the case that neither of these options is true since the text is simply pointing to the time when we will be more like Christ, in the "image" of Christ? Consonant with that principle, does the fact that Christ has the "fulness" of the divine nature MAKE him God or LIKE God, in the "image" of God?

You added: "The Bible tells us that the entire Triune God has been dispensed into and dwells in the regenerated believers. The Father is in us (Eph. 4:6), the Son is in us (2 Coin. 13:5), and the Spirit is in us (Rom. 8:9)." The Greek word ordinarily associated with this "in-ness" is "εν". It turns out that in some cases "in" means literally that-- "in". And, in some cases it has the meaning of being in unity or harmony. Let us shift, for a moment, over to John 14:20 where the Lord Jesus stated: "At that day ye shall know that I am IN my father, and ye IN me, and I IN you." Really, now, how are we to understand this statement? Is the in-ness literal? If so, the end result of the process is that the trinity will be supplanted by a polyinity. Is this on the agenda of Trinitarians? The non-Trinitarian would posit that the in-ness here relates to unity of purpose not the unity of several persons composing one God. What is your understanding ? If you agree, then would you concur that the Trinitarian has to step softly on the ice of what is meant by "in"?

On page 25 you related: "At the conclusion of Paul’s second Epistle to he Corinthians, he blessed the Corinthians with the Divine Trinity by saying, ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’ (13:14)." Again, I raise the question: Does association ipso facto argue for organic unity? What tells us here that there is a Trinity? To create a contemporary analogy, what would this expression mean: "May Clinton’s power, Gore’s sensitivity and Reno’s integrity come to favor you."? How many would understand this to mean that Clinton, Gore and Reno constituted one Being? Do you see my point?

Later, in your article you continued: "Although there is only one God, the Bible also reveals that this one God is plural, that He has the aspect of three. Genesis 1:1 says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The Hebrew word for God in this verse is Elohim, which is plural in number. Genesis 1:26 records that God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ The words US and OUR show that the one God has a plural aspect. In Isaiah 6:8 God said,’ Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ In this verse I is US, and US is I. These verses show us that God is not merely singular or merely plural. The God revealed in the Bible is ‘uni-plural."’

Since these texts originally appeared in Hebrew, I am able to say something about them inasmuch as I teach both Modern and Classical Hebrew.

Yes, it is true that the word "Elohim/אלהים" is a masculine plural noun. Notwithstanding that fact, the scholar must take the following into account: In the ancient Near Eastern languages there is a linguistic phenomenon called by some the "plural of majesty". What occurs with this is that a single individual is given a plural title owing to his station or rank. Let me illustrate:

Isaiah 19:4 (REVISED STANDARD VERSION) "and I will give over the Egyptians into the hand of a hard MASTER." The Hebrew word translated "master" in this passage is a masculine plural word --אדנים/adonim. Only one person was meant although a plural title is applied.

1 Kings 18:27 (REVISED STANDARD VERSION) "And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened."’ In this text, the god, Baal, is called in the Hebrew "אלהים/Elohim", a masculine plural noun. Baal was just one person and one god. He was given a plural title due to his prominence in pagan worship.

This linguistic phenomenon is found in other places both in the Biblical and extra-Biblical literature. Slightly off to the side, let me add that one finds it in the Arabic of the Quran too. Westerners often see more into the plural than is meant. Now, to tie the fabric more securely, let me add that what establishes that the "plural of majesty" is meant at places like Genesis 1:1 and not the "plural of persons" is the attending verb. A plural verb with a plural noun means that the plural noun means exactly what it says. A singular verb with a plural noun normally means that the noun refers to one individual of high station. Now, the verb that we find at Genesis 1:1, "created", is singular and not plural and that means that the subject, though stated in the plural, is one Being, not a plurality as you suggested.

The second item you advanced involved Genesis 1:26 where the KING JAMES VERSION, in part, says: "And God said, Let us make man in our image..." You see in the expression "Let us" reflections of the Trinity. Now, in the Hebrew "let us" is "נעשה/nah-ah-seh". Does this word suggest a plurality in one as some Trinitarians, including you, would argue? The unadulterated response to that is No. The expression "נעשה" has the same semantic range as the English "let us make". It is found again at Genesis 11:4 where the human community on the plains of Shinar said: "Go to, let us build us a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven; and LET US MAKE (נעשה) us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." (KING JAMES VERSION) Here, for sure, no plurality in one person is meant. A number of independent beings made up the "let us". Some Jewish scholars look at "let us make" at Genesis 1:26 as a form of the "plural of majesty". Other scholars observe that God may have been talking to the angels in view of Job 38:1-7. Still others argue that He was talking to His Son as an independent party in view of Revelation 3:14. The bottom line is that no definitive statement of the Trinity can be legitimately deduced from Genesis 1:26.

Next, you cited Isaiah 6:8 where the Creator said: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" You asserted that the "I" and the "us" in this scripture are one and the same being. Well, if you agree with your colleague, Kerry S. Robichaux, the Trinity doctrine awaited the coming of Christ to be revealed to believers. He argued that that was why Pre-Christian Jews were not Trinitarians. But, your selections from the Hebrew Scriptures along with your explanations seem to be saying that Pre-Christian Jews should have seen in their sacred literature a description of a multipersoned God. Here, you quoted Isaiah 6:8 as evidence. Let us step back a little from verse 8 of Isaiah chapter 6 and grab a measure of context. Let us begin with verse 1 using the AMERICAN STANDARD TRANSLATION:

"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim: each one had six wings...Then flew one of seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he touched my mouth with it, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin forgiven. And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I; send me."

The Hebrew rendered: "and who will go for us?" is: "ומי ילך־לנו". There is nothing mysterious about the Hebrew phrase and absolutely no reason to understand from the words used that a multipersoned Being is speaking. How would you counter the argument that He was talking to the seraphim? Or, that he was talking to his Only Begotten Son as a distinct being? (See John 12:36-41) At Judges 1:1 we learn that after the death of Joshua the children of Israel asked: "Who shall go up for us first against the Canaanites, to fight against them?" The Hebrew translated: "Who shall go up for us" is: "מי יעלה־לנו". It is linguistically equal to the similar phrase at Isaiah 6:8. It ought to be clear from this that a Trinity is not hidden in the passage at Isaiah 6:8.

My next letter will complete my reaction to your article. In the event that you have not seen the brochure entitled SHOULD YOU BELIEVE IN THE TRINITY?, I have passed this copy on to you for your consideration and reference.

Sincerely,
Hal Flemings



May 28, 1996
Ed Marks
Affirmation & Critique
P.O. Box 2032
Anaheim, California 92814-0121
Dear Ed:

This letter is an extension of the correspondence dated May 19, 1996 that I mailed to you recently. It centers on your article titled "A Biblical Overview of the Triune God."

On pages 25 and 26 you argued: "In Matthew 28:19 the Lord Jesus charged the disciple to baptize people into the name (singular) of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. C.I. Scofield says in a note to this verse in his reference Bible: ‘The word is in the singular, the "name", not "names". Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the final name of the one true God.’ The name is equivalent to the person, and the name in Matthew 28:19 is the sum total of all that the Triune God is in His Divine Being...There is one name for God, yet God is three...Our God is the three-God, He is three yet one, and one yet three. The three are distinct, but they are not separate because there is only one God." Let us examine the truthfulness of this perspective.

There are interesting ways in which the word "name" is used in both the Hebrew—Aramaic and Christian Greek Scriptures. Analyze the following examples:

Genesis 5:2 (KING JAMES VERSION): "Male and female created he them: and blessed them, and called their NAME Adam, in the day when they were created." Here two distinct and separate individuals are called by one NAME.

Genesis 48:6 (KING JAMES VERSION): "And thy issue, which thou begetteth after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the NAME [שם/name, singular] of their brethren in their inheritances." All the brothers had different names although the text represents that by the singular, "name". Note that the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION distributes the term by translating it "names".

Genesis 48:16 (KING JAMES VERSION): "The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name [שם] of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a mulititude in the midst of the earth." Did Abraham and Isaac have the same name? Does Abraham [אברהם] sound like Isaac [יעחק]? Clearly, the singular term here "name" is used in a distributive sense.

Mark 5:9 (KING JAMES VERSION): "Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘My name [ονομα] is Legion,’ he replied, ‘For we are many.’" I probably do not have to prove to you that in this case one name was given to a number of distinct demons.

It turns out that the Bible is clear in informing us that the Father has a name distinct from the Son. Look at the evidence below:

Proverbs 30:4 (NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION):" Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is HIS NAME, AND THE NAME OF HIS SON? Tell me if you know!"

Revelation 14:1 (NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION): "Then I looked, and theme before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had HIS NAME AND HIS FATHER’S NAME written on their foreheads." Can we doubt from this scripture that the Father has one name and that the Son has another?

John 10:25 (NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION): "Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me." If Jesus’ name and the Father’s name are one in the same, how are we to make sense of Jesus’ statement here?

Because of the scriptural material that has just been reviewed, many Bible students understand that the singular "name" at Matthew 28:19 has to be understood in the distributive sense, like the example at Genesis 48:16. The Trinitarian view of this passage is not without its problems, never mind the comments of Scofield.

One of your arguments that Jesus is the same God as the Father was expressed this way on page 26: "The Son is also God. We have to be clear that Jesus, the Son of God, is God. Hebrews 1:8 says, ‘But of the Son, ‘Your throne, 0 God, is forever and ever.’ Romans 9:5 declares that Christ is ‘God blessed forever.’ John 1:1 and 14 reveal that Christ is the eternal Word, the very God, who became flesh and dwelt among men."

Before we examine these scriptures in detail, let us remember one often overlooked fact. In the Bible we are confronted with the reality that while it asserts that there is only one REAL God that his faithful servants, both on the earth and in heaven, have been, from time to time, also called "god". This is illustrated below:

Psalm 82:1-8 (NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION): "God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the ‘gods’: ‘How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, "You are ‘gods’"; you are all sons of the Most High. But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.’ Rise up, 0 God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance." Why did the only True God call his human subjects "gods"? To show that no sarcasm was involved but that God truly called these ancient servants "gods", one has but to read what Jesus said about this at John 10:34-36 (NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION): "Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods’ to whom the word of God came——and the Scripture cannot be broken—-what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?"

Psalm 8:4,5 (NEW ENGLISH BIBLE) "What is man that thou shouldst remember him, mortal man that thou shouldst care for him? Yet thou hast made him little less than a god." The phrase translated "a god" in this translation in the Hebrew is "אלהים/Elohim" which really means "gods" in this text (since the plural of majesty is not indicated by either a singular verb or context). Who are these "gods"? We are not left to dispute this since the Apostle Paul clarified that at Hebrews 2:6,7 (NEW ENGLISH BIBLE): "What is man, that thou rememberest him, or the son of man, that thou hast regard to him? Thou didst make him for a short while lower than the angels; "So, the Apostle identifies the "gods" as "angels".

Psalm 136:1,2 (NEW ENGLISH BIBLE) "It is good to give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures for ever. Give thanks to the God of gods; his love endures for ever." The phrase "God of gods" is literally "God of the gods" in Hebrew. Which "gods" look to Jehovah as their "God"? That certainly is not true of lifeless sculpted gods; also it is not true of the demons since they have another leader according to Matthew 12:24. According to some Jewish and Christian scholars this refers to the holy angels.

Obviously, if the holy angels and human servants of God can be called "god" in some obviously limited way and still could not be confused with being the True God then that option, as an understanding, ought to be opened as well to Jesus Christ.

You cited Hebrews 1:8 at the beginning of this section of the discussion. Let us place that passage in front f or review. Here is how it appears in the KING JAMES VERSION: "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom." What is of interest here are the various ways in which the Greek of this verse has been translated by other translations, including those of Trinitarian scholars. Take a look:

"‘God is thy throne forever and ever.’" THE TWENTIETH CENTURY NEW TESTAMENT

"‘God is your throne forever and ever.’" THE AMERICAN TRANSLATION

"‘God is thy throne for ever and ever.’" THE MOFFATT TRANSLATION

"‘God is your throne forever and ever.’" THE BIBLE IN LIVING ENGLISH

Interestingly, the REVISED STANDARD VERSION and THE NEW ENGLISH BIBLE both offer the following alternate rendering of the Greek at Hebrews 1:8: "God is thy throne for ever and ever.’" Clearly, one reason for rendering the text "Thy throne, 0 God "relates to the bias regarding the Trinity. As you probably know, this text is a quote from Psalm 45:6 which was written in Classical Hebrew. There is nothing in the Hebrew at Psalm 45:6 to indicate that "God" should be rendered in the vocative and that is probably why the translations listed below are translated the way that they are:

"‘Thy throne, given of God"’ THE HOLY BIBLE by Isaac Leeser

"‘Your throne is the throne of God"’ THE NEW ENGLISH BIBLE

"‘Thy kingdom that God has given you will last for ever and ever."’ TODAY’S ENGLISH VERSION

Trinitarians often accuse non-Trinitarian Bible translators of tampering with the text in order to support a doctrinal agenda. As you can see, this accusation works both ways. In my next letter, this last point will be made with more than enough evidence.

Sincerely,
Hal Flemings



June 4, 1996
Ed Marks
Affirmation & Critique
P.O. Box 2032
Anaheim, California 92814-0121
Dear Ed:

This third letter to you from me continues my comments on your article called "A Biblical Overview of the Triune God."

In your paper you stated: "Romans 9:5 declares that Christ is ‘God blessed forever.’" According to the KING JAMES VERSION this verse reads: "Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." You may or may not be aware that there is a dispute even among Trinitarian scholars on how to correctly translate the Greek text here. For that reason, one finds other renderings. Examine these and you will see what I mean:

"Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them, in natural descent, sprang the Messiah. May God, supreme above all, be blessed forever." The margin reads: "or sprang the Messiah supreme above all. Blessed be God forever." --NEW ENGLISH BIBLE

"To them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever."--REVISED STANDARD VERSION

"Theirs were the patriarchs, and from them came the Messiah (I speak of his human origins). Blessed forever be God who is over all! Amen." --THE NEW AMERICAN BIBLE

Many Protestant and Catholic scholars view the last part of that verse as a distinct element undoubtedly a "doxology" directed to God. Some trinitarians integrate the entire verse in order to form a nexus of Christ with God. I do not think that it is difficult to see what is the motivation here. For obvious reasons, I think that you are not safe looking for the Trinity at Romans 9:5.

Your next selected evidence was the well known John 1:1 which is rendered this way in THE JERUSALEM BIBLE: "In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God." Controversy over this verse has a Methusalaian history. Look at how some have translated the Greek of the latter part of this verse:

"and the Word was a god."--THE NEW TESTAMENT IN AN IMPROVED VERSION (1808)

"The Word was a God."--THE NEW TESTAMENT IN GREEK AND ENGLISH by Abner Kneeland (1822)

"as a god the Command was."--A LITERAL TRANSLATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT by Herman Heinfetter (1863)

"And (a) God was the word"--THE COPTIC VERSION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT by George William Homer (1911)

"the Word was a God"-- THE NEW TESTAMENT OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS ANOINTED by James L. Tomanec (1958)

"and a god was the Logos"--DAS EVANGELIUM NACH JOHANNES By Jurgen Becker (1979)

Because Jehovah’s Witnesses produced a translation with a similar rendering of the Greek–"the Word was a god"--some accused the Witnesses firstly of lacking the scholarly credentials to even translate the Bible and secondly of lacking an understanding of the Koine Greek. The amusing thing about this oft presented criticism is that it completely ignores the fact that competent Greek translators had translated John 1:1 the way the Witness translators did long before Jehovah’s Witnesses of modern times even came into existence. it is easy to see that the translation "and the Word was a god" could plainly mean that he was a being different from the God with whom he existed--"and the Word was WITH God". Such an understanding would be similar to Job 38:1-7 which informs us that the holy angels, who were also called "gods", were present with God in "the beginning". Notwithstanding all of this, let us examine the Greek of John 1:1. The Greek text reads:

εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος

I assume that you are aware that the Greek word θεος in the last phrase appears without the definite article.

Without a doubt, it was for this reason that over 40 translations throughout the world have rendered that phrase: "and the Word was a god". And note these quotes from the community of Bible language scholars:

(1) "There is no basis for regarding the predicate theos as definite... In John 1:1 I think that the qualitative force of the predicate [noun] is so prominent that the noun cannot be regarded as definite." Philip Earner, JOURNAL OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE, Vol. 92:1, 1973, pp. 85, 87.

(2) "There is a distinction in the Greek here between ‘with God’ and ‘God’. In the first instance the article is used and this makes the reference specific. In the second instance there is no article and it is difficult to believe that the omission is not significant. In effect it gives an adjectival quality to the second use of Theos so the phrase means ‘The Word was divine"’. THE TRANSLATOR’S NEW TESTAMENT, p. 451

(3) "Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated ‘the word was with the God (= the Father), and the word was a divine being." John L. McKenzie, S.J., DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE, p. 317.

The appeal to Colwell’s rule to make the case for the translation "the Word was God" has been severely challenged by contemporary New Testament Greek scholars like Nigel Turner and others.

For those who would translate the last phrase "and the Word was God", we have in them an excellent example of a theologically biased translation. The doctrine of the Trinity was in the translator’s mind. The grammar of the Greek does not irrefutably make the Word God. The viewpoint of the translator might. As often as this scripture is held up as evidence of a Trinity--never mind the fact that the alleged third "equal" member is not even mentioned--one wonders why it is ever used in view of how it appears in the Koine Greek.

Next, on page 22, you added: "In John 20:27 the Lord Jesus appeared in resurrection to Thomas, the doubting one, and charged him, ‘Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ Thomas then said to the resurrected Jesus: ‘My Lord and my God!’ (vs. 28). Jesus responded to Thomas by saying, ‘Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed" (vs. 29.) Because Thomas saw the Lord Jesus, he believed that Jesus is God." Do we have evidence here of the Trinity or even a Duality in One? Let us take a deeper look and see.

In the Greek, the noun may take several forms according to case. Take, for example, the name "Peter". When "Peter" occurs as the subject of a sentence, the doer of an action, it is in the "nominative case" and would look like this: "πετρος". When "Peter" is receiving the action of a verb, is the direct object, then it is in the "accusative case" and would look like this: "πετρον". And, when "Peter" occurs as a direct address, then it is in the "vocative case" and would look like this: "πετρε". This somewhat simplistic explanation is, nevertheless, sufficient to make a compelling point.

You will observe that throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures when someone was being addressed as "Lord" that the Greek word used was "κυριε,". As you can see, this is the word for "lord" in the vocative case. Review these examples:

Matthew 7:21 "It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord’ [κυριε], Lord’ [κυριε] , who will enter the kingdom of heaven..." THE JERUSALEM BIBLE

Mark 7:28 "But she answered and saith unto him, Yea, Lord [κυριε] ; even the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs." THE AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION

Luke 5:12 "While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and besought him, ‘Lord [κυριε], if you will, you can make me clean."’ REVISED STANDARD VERSION

John 11:3 "so the sisters sent to Him saying, Lord [κυριε], he whom You love (so well) is sick." AMPLIFIED BIBLE

The point being established here is that when someone was being addressed as Lord, the form used was κυριε. Now, it is time for you and I to look at John 20:28 in the Greek. Here is how we find it:

"απεκριθη θωμας και ειπεν αυτω ο κυριος μου και ο θεος μου"

You will observe that the word for Lord in this verse is κυριος and not κυριε. In other words, Jesus was NOT being addressed in this comment. If he was being addressed, then Thomas would have stated:

"κυριε μου. . ."

Because of that simple fact, some scholars have acknowledged that this probably was an exclamation rather than an affirmation that Jesus was the Almighty God. This conclusion is not readily seen in translations into English and many other languages that have no regular case endings that make it easy to differentiate the nominative, dative, vocative accusative et al. If I saw you tomorrow and said to you: "My God, is that you Ed Marks?", would that be sufficient evidence since I "said to you" in clear terms "My God" that I was acknowledging that you were a God--and not only that but MY God?

So that there is no misunderstanding about who Jesus really was, all we have to do is to read several verses beyond John 20:28 where we are informed: "But these have been written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the SON of GOD; and that believing you may have life in his name." --DIAGLOTT BIBLE The concept that Jesus is the "son of God" is held by Jehovah’s Witnesses; I believe it to be the accurate view.

I shall return, God willing, with another letter reviewing your article.

Sincerely,
Hal Flemings



July 2, 1996
Ed Marks
Affirmation & Critique
P.O. Box 2032
Anaheim, California 92814-0121
Dear Ed:

This fourth letter to you still focuses on the article that you authored entitled "A Biblical Overview of the Triune God."

On page 26 you argued: "When the unbelieving Jews were virulently debating with the Lord Jesus in John 8, He revealed His eternal deity. ‘The Jews then said to Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham came into being, I am. So they picked up stones to throw at Him’ (vv. 57-59). According to correct grammar, the Lord should have said, ‘Before Abraham came into being, I was.’ The Lord, of course, was not caring for grammar but for the revelation of His eternal deity as the great I Am, who revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3. ‘And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM bath sent me unto you.’" And you added: "In John 8 Jesus was declaring that He is the very God, the eternal I Am."

Let us now test the strength of this claim. You stated that Jesus should have said "I was" to be grammatically correct but that he had a doctrinal point to make by saying "I am". Were you aware that in "New Testament" Greek that there are sentences expressed in the present tense in the Greek but which must be rendered in the perfect in English? Perhaps this little excursion through some of the grammars may help us:

"The Present of Past Action still in Progress. The Present Indicative, accompanied by an adverbial expression denoting duration and referring to past time, is sometimes used in Greek...to describe an action which, beginning in past time, is still in progress at the time of speaking. English idiom requires the use of the Perfect in such cases." Ernest De Witt Burton, SYNTAX OF THE MOODS AND TENSES IN NEW TESTAMENT GREEK, p.10, section 17, I must mention here that the Greek of John 8:58 is an example of this.

"Sometimes the Present includes also a past tense... when the verb expresses a state which commenced at an earlier period but still continues— a state in its duration; as, Jn. xv.27...viii.58"——George Benedict Winer, A GRAMMAR OF THE IDIOM OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, (Luneman translation), 1897, p. 267. You will observe that the Greek scholar cites John 8:58 as an example of a present tense verb correctly rendered in the past or perfect in English.

For this reason, many translations correctly translated John 8:58 as illustrated below:

"I existed before Abraham was born." Edgar J. Goodspeed, THE COMPLETE BIBLE, AN AMERICAN TRANSLATION

"I was before Abraham." William F. Beck, THE NEW TESTAMENT IN THE LANGUAGE OF TODAY

"From before Abraham was, I have been." George R. Noyes, THE NEW TESTAMENT

"Before Abraham was, I have been." Franz Delitzsch, THE NEW TESTAMENT IN HEBREW

"Before Abraham was born, I was." George Lamsa, THE NEW TESTAMENT ACCORDING TO THE EASTERN TEXT

There is no doubt in my mind that the main reason for the "I am" translation at John 8:58 has to do with a trinitarian bias since the grammar there explicitly prohibits an English present tense translation. (If this grammatical subject interests you, consider the Greek at the following verses and note the English translations: Luke 13:7; Luke 15:29; John 5:6 and John 14:9)

When you analyze the Hebrew text at Exodus 3:13-15, you discover a problem with the "I am" translation again. The Hebrew word some translate "I am" in the text is אהיה/Eh-YEH. In Modern Hebrew, it absolutely means "I will be" or "I shall be" and not "I am". But what about

Classical Hebrew? How is this word usually translated into English, setting aside for the moment how it is translated "I am" at Exodus 3:13—15 in some translations? Here are some samples of how אהיה/Eh-YEH is translated in other verses:

 

Citation:

King James Version

New International Version

Ex 3:12

I will be

I will be

Jos 1:5

I will be

I will be

Judg 6:16

I will be

I will be

1 Sam 23:17

I shall be

I will be

2 Sam 7:14

will be

I will be

2 Sam 15:34

I will be

I will be

2 Sam 16:18

will I be

I will be

1 Chro 17:13

I will be

I will be

Is 47:7

I shall be

I will

Jer 11:4

I will be

I will be

Did you observe that in Exodus 3:12 the word אהיה is translated "I will be " but over the next few verses, which are our subject verses, the same word is translated "I am"? Be honest with me, do not you smell something there? Perhaps because of that, some other translators saw fit to render the Hebrew word אהיה as we find it here:

"I will be what I will be." NEW ENGLISH BIBLE

"I will be what I will be." THE MOFFATT TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE

"I Will Become Whatsoever I please." THE EMPHASIZED OLD TESTAMENT, Joseph Bryant Rotherham

"I will be what I will be." TWENTY-FOUR BOOKS OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, Isaac Leeser (A Jewish translation)

"I will be what I will be." THE NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, margin

I must tell you that these discoveries caused me to abandon the Trinity and subscribe to the view that Jesus "really" is the Son of God and therefore not God. But, we must pick this up another time in another letter.

Sincerely,
Hal Flemings



July 11, 1996
Ed Marks
Affirmation & Critique
P.O. Box 2032
Anaheim, California 92814-0121
Dear Ed:

This fifth letter continues the series of letters from me concerning your article labeled "A Biblical Overview of the Triune God."

On pages 26 and 27 you stated: "A divine title for God in the Old Testament is JEHOVAH (Gen. 2:4), which is used in God’s relationship with man. This title literally means ‘He that is who He is; therefore the eternal I Am.’ In Jehovah’s being, there is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. As Jehovah, He is the threefold yet unique God. The name JESUS means ‘Jehovah the Savior’ or ‘the salvation of Jehovah.’ We declare to all that Jesus is Jehovah! He is Emmanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:21,23)."

First, is "Jehovah" a name or "title" as you asserted? Let us take a moment to survey the Scriptures for the answer:

Psalm 83:18 (KING JAMES VERSION): "That men may know that thou, whose name [Hebrew שם] alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth."

Ezekiel 36:22 (AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION): "Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I do not this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for my holy name [Hebrew שם], which ye have profaned among the nations, whither ye went."

Exodus 20:7 (THE EMPHASIZED BIBLE): "Thou shalt not utter the name [Hebrew שם] of Yahweh thy God, for falsehood, for Yahweh will not let him go unpunished who uttereth his name for falsehood."

I believe these few citations establish that the term "Jehovah" (sometimes rendered "Yahweh") is a personal name. Note that Psalm 83:18 voices that this is God’s name "alone". You and I know that God has many "titles" but, if the reference in Psalm 83 is to be believed, He has one name.

Your translation of the name "Jehovah" was rather interesting; you said that it meant: "He that is who He is; therefore, the eternal I Am." THE NEW BROWN-DRIVER-BRIGGS-GESENIUS HEBREW-ENGLISH LEXICON gives us this explanation of the Divine name: "the one bringing into being, life-giver...he who brings to pass...performer of his promises..." Other authorities say that the name means "He who causes to become". I can tell you up front that it does not mean "the eternal I Am". On the assumption that you are not trained in Classical Hebrew or if so, not extensively, I can tell you that whoever provided this translation of the Divine name to you did not give you an accurate transmission of the meaning. And, your translation of the name "Jesus" needs some modification. The name does not mean "Jehovah THE savior." Your other translation of this name is close, since the name "Jesus" means "Jehovah is salvation". Somehow you see in this the message that Jesus IS Jehovah. Let us examine this idea.

Consider the list of names below and let me know if you feel that the names identify any of the individuals as Jehovah God:

 

Name

Meaning of Name

References

Jehu

"Jehovah is He"

2 Kings 9

Eliam

"God of the People"

2 Sam 23:34

Eliathah

"My God Has Come"

1 Chr 25:1-6

Elihu

"My God is He"

Job 32:1-6

Elisha

"God is Salvation"

1 Kings 19

I should point out that the names "Jesus" and "Joshua" mean precisely the same thing. Do you see the problem with connecting a person’s name with his relationship to the Creator? I suppose that if I wanted to argue that the only man that was the Creator was Jehu and that his name proves it, how would you respond to such an argument? It is easy to see that one might call your argument desperate using the name "Jesus" to make a nexus with "Jehovah". I am not making the accusation but I am forwarding an obvious caution.

On the heels of your last argument, you said: "The Bible also reveals that the Spirit is God. In Acts 5 Peter told Ananias that he had lied to the Holy Spirit (v.3). Then he said, ‘You have not lied to men but to God’ (v.4). This shows that the Spirit is God." This proposition is used quite often to establish that the holy spirit is God. My friend, let me show you that this could not be a weaker argument for connecting the holy spirit with God in the Trinitarian sense:

(1) At Jonah 3:3,4 (NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION) we read: "Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go all through it. Jonah started into the city going a day’s journey, and he proclaimed: ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed.’ The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from, the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth." Now think about this passage. Was Jonah God since the account specifically stated that Jonah spread the message and then the people "believed God"? Would not most people understand that Jonah’s message was God’s message and not that they were one and the same being? If a Trinitarian wanted to place Jonah as one of the members of the Trinity, he would look at this citation as one providing unchallengeable evidence that Jonah was part of the Triune God. The bias dictates how the verses are viewed if several interpretations are possible. As you can see, Acts 5:3,4 illustrates this quite well.

(2) Later, in the very same chapter of Acts, look at verses 38 and 39 where the esteemed Gamaliel commenting on the activities of the apostles stated: " So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" (REVISED STANDARD VERSION) Suppose some new sect wanted to argue that the body of the apostles constituted God himself. Could you think of a better verse to "prove" the point? Obviously, the real meaning here is that opposing the apostles was tantamount to opposing God.

In the same way, lying to the holy spirit (Acts 5:3) was equivalent to lying to God (Acts 5:4). What would make this understanding of the material not a correct one?

Some have argued that if the holy spirit is not a person, let alone God, that it would be nonsensical to speak of "lying" against it since you can lie only to persons. But even that objection has its problems. For example, at James 3:14 the account speaks of lying against the Truth. I think that most of us know that the Truth in this text is not a person. Incidentally, the Greek verb for "lying" at Acts 5 is the same one used at James 3:14. Let me place before you some renderings of James 3:14:

"But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth." -KING JAMES VERSION

"But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth."- REVISED STANDARD VERSION

Let me pick up this discussion at another time. Your comments are welcomed.

Sincerely,
Hal Flemings

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